It was fitting that Lancashire completed their third win of the 2018 Specsavers County Championship season by chasing their target in something resembling T20 mode. After all, they reached the semi-finals of the Vitality Blast but were relegated from Division One.
Set just 113 by Hampshire, whose two remaining wickets lasted just seven overs, Lancashire needed only 13 overs to earn an eight-wicket victory. Liam Livingstone emphasised the point that they didn’t want to return after lunch by taking 16 from Liam Dawson’s two overs — all of those runs came from reverse sweeps.
It will hardly please those from Manchester that five minutes after Livingstone hit the winning runs on the south coast, Nottinghamshire succumbed to an innings defeat against Somerset. It means Nottinghamshire will survive on more wins; had Lancashire added 27 more to their first innings 273 this week, they would have stayed up instead.
Different circumstances may have changed the outcome, of course, although whether it would have altered Kyle Abbott’s first over of half-volleys to Keaton Jennings is a different story. The England batsman took five consecutive boundaries from it and they were 20 without loss just six deliveries in.
Fidel Edwards produced yet another moment of magic in the futile run defence, squaring up Alex Davies who edged to third slip, and beating debutant Brooke Guest for pace next ball. But Jennings and Livingstone added 73 in 46 balls to ensure matters were concluded before lunch.
Tom Bailey is the leading wicket-taker in Division One this season with 64, taking the final two of those this morning. It’s the highest tally by a Lancashire bowler since Gary Keedy’s 72 in 2004, but Bailey was hardly gleaming about it.
“I play to win games of cricket and as good as it sounds, I haven’t enjoyed it as much as you’d expect because I enjoy winning so much,” he said at the end of play. “So it’s been a tough season.”
Bailey hasn’t been included in the England Lions squad that is being announced this afternoon — “apparently I’ve just missed the cut,” he said — but after such a strong season he is hardly doing things wrong. His time will come.
He has, however, heeded the words of James Anderson throughout this season. “I remember Jimmy a few years ago giving me some advice, just basically said that ‘if you put the ball in the right areas over a course of a season, you’ll come up with the goods’ and something so simple has stuck with me and that’s what I’ve tried to do.
“I think I’ve always had that ability in me, it’s just getting a run of games,” Bailey added. “I think my skills are quite good, I can swing the ball, and I’m quite accurate as well. I’ve never managed to get a full season out of myself, mainly due to injuries, so I’m really pleased with how I’ve done.”
To Hampshire, this defeat will be just a statistic. They avoided relegation last week and while it would have been nice to end on a win for Jimmy Adams, for whom this was the last professional cricket match, they will finish either fourth or fifth — dependant on Yorkshire’s result at New Road.
Accompanying that is the Royal London One-Day Cup, which they won back in June, and a failure to make the Blast’s knockout stages. Director of cricket Giles White appeared pleased with the season but is hungry for more.
“It’s progress, but not where we want to be,” he said. “We want to be challenging at the top, we’ve always stated that the last few years but it is progress from where we have been.”
It was announced shortly after the close that Keith Barker will be joining Hampshire next season from Warwickshire, having signed a two-year deal.
White added: “I see him as a bowling all-rounder and I think depth of bowling is the key to this.
“He’s performed very well. He’ll be a nice addition, brings experience as well. We’ve got an experienced attack but we’ve got a couple of youngsters coming through that will be pushing these guys over the next couple of years.”